Gypsy camp discovery offers fresh hope for families

The girl, known only as Maria, rescued by police in Greece. Picture: Getty
The girl, known only as Maria, rescued by police in Greece. Picture: Getty
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THE mother of Ben Needham, who disappeared when he was a toddler, said she hoped the discovery of a four-year-old girl at a gypsy camp in Greece might offer new leads in his abduction.

Kerry Needham’s son Ben, was just 21 months old when he was taken from his grandparents’ home on the island of Kos in Greece in 1991.

Last night, Ms Needham she said was “delighted” at the news that the blonde girl with blue eyes has been discovered in the country where her child was last seen.

The four-year-old girl, known only as Maria, was thought to have been abducted, having been found in squalid conditions with a couple and 13 other children at a camp near Farsala in the centre of the country.

Ms Needham added: “My family and I are extremely delighted at the news that a four-year-old girl has been found in a gypsy camp in Larissa, Greece.

“We have always believed that Ben’s abduction was gypsy-related and have had a long ongoing inquiry in Larissa. We hope that the investigation into Ben’s disappearance will now be looked at again.”

The youngster, from Sheffield, vanished after travelling to Kos with his mother and grandparents, Eddie and Christine, who were renovating a farmhouse in the village of Iraklise.

Eddie Needham added: “We’ve always been told over the years it’s impossible for gypsies to hide a European child, well this proves that it’s not.

“What I want now is for the British police to contact Larissa police and have those people questioned regarding Ben.”

Ben’s sister, Leighanna Needham, 20, said the discovery of Maria in the gypsy camp was welcome news for her family’s fight for answers.

“It’s given us great hope,” she said.

“Obviously, it’s been a strong belief of myself and all my family that Ben was taken by gypsies for child trafficking or illegal adoptions and this case just shows that they can be found.”

Maria was removed from her alleged captors at a Roma encampment in central Greece, on Wednesday.

Last night despite receiving hundreds of tips from around the world, Greek police were no closer to discovering her identity. Next to nothing is known about her background, apart from the fact that she speaks Roma, not Greek.

Anthropologists are now due to examine her features in an attempt to discover where she was born.

The discovery has also buoyed the hopes of Madeleine McCann’s parents. The Leicestershire girl, then three, vanished from a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007, as her parents dined with friends in a nearby tapas restaurant.

Clarence Mitchell, a spokesman for her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, said Maria had renewed their hope that Madeleine would also be found.

“They have always maintained that until there is evidence to prove otherwise missing children can still be out there waiting to be found,” he said.